Tahoe conservationists challenge Martis Valley West court decision | SierraSun.com

Tahoe conservationists challenge Martis Valley West court decision

Submitted to The Sun

The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mountain Area Preservation and Sierra Watch announced they would file a notice of appeal in California's Third District Court of Appeals seeking adequate environmental protection for Lake Tahoe from the proposed Martis Valley West Project, a news release states.

Earlier this year, Placer County Superior Court issued an order to vacate and set aside Placer County's 2016 approvals of the Martis Valley West project, a development proposal on Brockway Summit. According to the release, the ruling focused on Placer County's failure to provide sufficient analysis of the project's impacts on emergency evacuation, such as in the event of a wildfire.

Although the Placer County Court decision halted progress on Martis Valley West, the court's ruling did not address other environmental threats associated with the project, including impacts to the Lake Tahoe Basin, the release states. The three conservation organizations are asking a panel of three judges for the Court of Appeal to revisit those environmental hazards.

"While we are taking this action today to ensure that Lake Tahoe benefits now from the environmental protections that California law requires, this is also critical for the long term," Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said in the news release. "If we are to protect Lake Tahoe for future generations, we must set a precedent that future developments must take the health of the Lake into account."

In 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the Martis Valley West proposal, a 760-unit residential development with 6.6 acres of commercial, located on a ridgeline overlooking Lake Tahoe and the Martis Valley, immediately adjacent to the Tahoe Basin. According to the release, Placer County records show the project would add more cars to Tahoe's existing traffic.

According to Placer County's environmental review, the Martis Valley West project would add up to 1,394 vehicle trips per day to Lake Tahoe's existing traffic, further jeopardizing ongoing efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue.

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"While the project sits on the boundary of Tahoe, the impacts from increased traffic, including auto-related pollution that will harm Lake Tahoe's water quality, setting a dangerous precedent for, projects on the fringe of the basin," Alexis Ollar, executive director of Mountain Area Preservation, said in the release. "Martis Valley West offers up practically zero mitigation for Lake Tahoe. Filing this appeal helps to safeguard our environmental laws, while standing up for our natural resources and health of our community."

Although the recent Placer County Court ruling has halted progress on the Martis Valley West project, its proponents assert that they can address the shortcomings identified by the court's ruling and eventually move the project ahead without addressing the rest of its environmental dangers.

The three conservation organizations filing today's appeal seek to ensure the project's environmental threats are addressed, and that a precedent is set that Lake Tahoe is to remain protected.

"This is how we work together to protect our mountains," said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. "By taking action today, we can stop one reckless project now and, also, prevent more irresponsible projects in Tahoe's future."

Source: Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch and The League to Save Lake Tahoe.